WILLIAMSON DIAMOND MINES – IN NEED OF A FACELIFT

Asukile Kyando of SHIHATA has been interviewing Mr. Sylvanus Mipawa, General Manager of Williamson Diamond Mines about the present state of affairs at the mines.

They are situated in Mwadui town in Shinyanga region and were first discovered in 1940. They have the largest Kimberlite pipe in the world with a surface area of 360 acres. 50% or more of the production is gem quality diamonds. Total gross diamond sales between 1958 and 1987 are quoted at Shs 5,309 million. There are about 3,000 workers. The mines recorded their highest production of diamonds in 1966 – 47,000 m carats (a carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams) but in 1987 there were only 124,000 m carats.

One of the main reasons for the fall in production is the diminished ore grades. The former and richer deposits have been depleted after 48 years of mining but there still remain some 75.4 m tons of ore reserves at a grade of 5.1 carats per 100 tons. Ore available for mining to the planned 300 ft level is 35.1 m tons with a total of 2,202 m carats of diamonds. “So therefore” Mr. Mipawa said, “we shall keep on hearing about Mwadui mines for a very long time to come – we are certainly talking of a lifespan of at least ten years – provided that steps are taken to rehabilitate the plant and machinery”.

Mr. Mipawa was asked how he compared the old Mwadui and today’s Mwadui. He replied: “Mwadui town is relatively new. The biggest part of it was built in the 1960’s. Hence people have sweet memories of new houses, roads and other facilities. But now the town has started to age. It requires a facelift. Mwadui was also famous for its very modern self-service supermarkets with almost everything one can think of on sale. That is no longer the case and the difference is significant. …. Even in the production areas things have changed. The plant is old and its performance is very unsatisfactory … What we have in mind is to carry out a rehabilitation programme that will put plant availability back to an average of 80% In order to do so we will need at least US$ 5.0 million.”

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